Be the change you wish to see in the world...

- Gandhi

Monday, March 31, 2014

Meet Mayim Bialik!

Mayim Bialik is a woman of many talents.  She is an actress on the hit series, The Big Bang Theory, as well as holds two Masters degrees (in neuroscience and Hebrew & Jewish Studies) and a Ph.D (in neuroscience).  If that isn't enough, she is a writer, the author of Beyond The Sling, and most recently, the cookbook Mayim's Vegan Table (click here for my review of the book on the blog last week).  Mayim is also a regular contributor to Kveller.com, a Jewish parenting site.  Oh, and she is the mother of two young boys.  Yeah - she's pretty awesome!  

I have had the pleasure of knowing Mayim for several years, meeting through a very good mutual friend.  She was one of the only vegans I knew when I first made my transition. She has always been extremely gracious and helpful with any information she could provide and always a pleasure to spend time with.  It is my sincere honor and joy to have Mayim join us on VeegMama today.

VM: Can you tell us a little bit about your vegan journey - the turning point that led you to choose this lifestyle?
MB: Well, I was always an animal lover and became vegetarian at 19. I still ate dairy and eggs, but after cutting out most dairy in college, my health improved significantly. I didn't get seasonal allergies, I have not been on antibiotics or had a sinus infection since. When my first son was born, he got gassy, fussy and really miserable if iI ate any dairy so I cut it out completely and that solved that problem! I read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer about 6 years ago and after that, I cut out all trace eggs and dairy. That was the main turning point in going "whole hog" as it were!

VM: Do you have any advice for those interested in becoming vegan, but may be overwhelmed by adopting a new diet, finding new recipes, and learning about new products?
MB: Find things you already know about and can enjoy vegan: pasta marinara for example, or 3 bean chili. Experiment with variations on those things. Don't try out "substitute" meats or force yourself to enjoy a glass of rice milk; those tastes take longer to adjust to and you can start small and go from there! 

VM: You are a woman of many talents - an actress, neuroscientist, and blogger (I love you on Kveller.com), among many others.  What inspired you to write a cookbook?
MB: As a normal mom, I shared for Kveller.com recipes I had made vegan, especially ones for Jewish holidays. There was interest in me publishing them and that's literally what I did. I took the recipes I make the most for my kids and for our friends and family (most of whom are not vegan!) and put them together, along with nutritional expert advice from pediatric nutritionist and pediatrician Dr. Jay Gordon. I'm not a fancy chef or celebrity chef; I'm really a normal mom and this is how we eat! 

VM: What is your go-to meal for your family on a busy weeknight?
MB: Burritos. Tortillas, beans (vegetarian refried or whole black or pinto beans from a can), a little salsa, a little Daiya vegan cheese, and sliced avocado if I have it. And vegan sour cream too for a little flare!

VM: Passover is coming up.  It is my favorite Jewish holiday.  Do you have any special dishes or traditions that you could share?
MB: As a vegan who doesn't eat kitniyot and doesn't eat processed matzoh products, Pesach is a lot of quinoa and salads and vegetables. We always have latkes at least twice during Pesach though since that's easy to make vegan for Pesach!

VM: What suggestions and advice do you have for families raising vegan kids?  How do you help them explain and advocate their food/lifestyle choices?
MB: Start small and know that small palettes need time to adjust. We get to decide what's best for our kids, though; not them! By that I mean, they can "want" chicken fingers and pizza, but it's us who decide what to actually give them. We are supposed to help them grow their bodies and brains and whole bodies and we get to make choices that work for everyone's health even if they resist at first. 

VM: What is your favorite vegan restaurant?
MB: In LA, I think Native Foods. Their Reuben sandwich is to die for. I also love Real Food Daily, of course. 

VM: What is the one vegan product you couldn't live without (in the kitchen)?
MB: Hmmm. Daiya cheese has changed my life and the lives of my sons. It allows us to have pizza and "fun foods" in a way we couldn't before. It's not super healthy or an every day thing, but it's very important to us!

VM: I am on a quest to live "the good life" in every meaning of the word.  What does "the good life" mean to you?
MB: Honesty. Integrity. Faith. Serenity. 

VM: Can you share your favorite quote?
MB: "Be the change you wish to see in the world." That's Gandhi for you!

Thank you, Mayim!  Read more about Mayim below.

VeegMama interview with Mayim Bialik
Mayim Hoya Bialik is best known for portraying Bette Midler as a child in “Beaches” as well as her subsequent lead role as Blossom Russo in the early-1990s NBC television sitcom “Blossom.” Bialik now appears regularly on the #1 comedy in America, CBS' “The Big Bang Theory,” playing neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler, a role for which she has been twice nominated for an Emmy and once nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award.  

Bialik earned a B.S. from UCLA in 2000 in Neuroscience and Hebrew & Jewish Studies, and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience, also from UCLA, in 2007. Bialik was a dedicated student leader at UCLA Hillel and is an avid student of all things Jewish. She speaks all over the country for Jewish organizations, colleges and universities.

She gave birth to her first son in 2005, and her second son (born at home, unassisted until pushing) in 2008. Her book about Attachment Parenting, Beyond the Sling, was published in March 2012 (Simon and Schuster). Her second book of vegan family-friendly recipes, Mayim’s Vegan Table, was published by Da Capo Press in February 2014. 

She writes regularly for the Jewish parenting site Kveller.com and is proud to be a voice for religious observance, liberal politics, maintaining modesty in Hollywood, and just being a really normal imperfect mom trying to make everything run smoothly in a world out of her control.